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Watch now: Unit 5 crowd speaks on masks, sex and race education

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Chants echo outside Normal West High School before Wednesday's school board meeting, where community members are expected to speak in support and in opposition of sex education, inclusive social studies curriculum and mask-wearing.

NORMAL — A crowd filed into the cafeteria Wednesday night at Normal West High School, keeping a promise made at a recent Bloomington District 87 school board meeting where the room overflowed.

More than 30 people signed up to speak during the public comments segment of the McLean County Unit 5 school board meeting.

Unit 5 school board June 16

A crowd gathered at Normal West High School for the McLean County Unit 5 school board meeting June 16, 2021. More than 30 people signed up to speak for public comments, many in regards to mask-wearing, sex education and race in social studies education.

Board President Amy Roser began the meeting with a reminder of the district’s expectation for a civil meeting, including that members of the audience were not to speak unless recognized by the board.

Thirty minutes into the meeting, Roser paused the meeting to ask members of the crowd to comply with the mask rule, as face coverings are required on school grounds.

A brief recess followed when compliance was not met and many began talking loudly.

Before the public comments began, Superintendent Kristen Weikle noted: “As a school district, we don’t get to pick and choose which rules we follow,” in reference to the mask requirement.

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Some, like Cameron “C.J.” Hurley, spoke in support of inclusive sex and racial history education in K-12 schools.

Hurley, a Unit 5 graduate, said, “The truth matters. Not doing so empowers ignorance, hate and violence.”

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Others spoke in opposition to sex and race education as well as the continued practice of community members speaking against the mask mandate.

“They shouldn’t be worried about sex,” said community member George James. “They shouldn’t even be taught it. Anybody that pushes this law has got to be a child pedophile.”

Senate Bill 818, which passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in May, would require ISBE to develop learning standards and school districts to offer comprehensive personal health and safety education for in kindergarten through fifth grade; sexual health education for grades six through 12, and age; and developmentally appropriate consent education for kindergarten through grade 12.

As Unit 5 does not include sex education in the elementary curriculum, Weikle said that aspect of the bill would not affect the district. Unit 5 does teach Erin’s Law, which is used to prevent child sexual abuse and includes age-appropriate information about consent and inappropriate touching.

Alex Shone, a recent Unit 5 grad, said sex education should not be taught in schools, but instead left for families to teach in their homes.

The district’s curriculum is “Inclusive and affirming for all sexual orientations and gender identities” and uses the national sex education standards as a resource, Weikle said.

Per House Bill 2170, which was signed into law in March to take effect July 1, ISBE is required to adopt “revised social science learning standards that are inclusive and reflective of all individuals in this country.”

The Illinois State Board of Education was expected to approve the adoption of a rule regarding the revision of Illinois Learning Standards for social science at a meeting Wednesday.

Weikle said Unit 5 does not include critical race theory in its curriculum, which several noted as their reason for speaking.

A sign displayed by an audience member during the recess read “DEI is critical race theory,” referencing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.


Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.

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